Importance of School Sponsored Services and Activities
The focus on standardized testing and school budget cuts over the past few decades has led to a watering down of curriculum and a decrease of wraparound supports. Services such as school busses, medical care, and food are all factors that contribute to students attending and being engaged while at school, so it is critical that children’s social needs are met as well as their academic needs. Research also shows the importance of providing students with access to extra-curricular activities, such as sports, performing arts, publications, and clubs.
In order to enjoy their right to a free education, many students rely on school busses to transport them to school. Gottfried found that students who ride the bus in kindergarten “are absent less often and have lower odds of being chronically absent, a key indicator of future academic success.” Absenteeism is damaging to the student who misses school, with its short-and long-term effects on academic performance and future absenteeism. It is also damaging to the other students in the class, because “when classmates miss more school, all students in the classroom tend to have lower test scores.”
A Brookings study showed that the benefits of integrating wraparound supports far outweighed the benefits of those programs to the students. Elementary school students in a large urban district received personalized supports such as food, medical care, and after school programs. Those students demonstrated better grades, effort, and attendance when compared with peers who did not participate in the program. Those students continued to succeed in future school years, with a reduction in the achievement gap and a dropout rate cut nearly in half. There was also a financial return on investment in the program.
Beyond having their basic needs met, students also benefit when schools provide them with extracurricular activities. These activities are important in order to give students a channel for reinforcing the lessons learned in the classroom. Research suggests that “participation in extracurricular activities may increase students’ sense of engagement or attachment to their school, and thereby decrease the likelihood of school failure and dropping out.” One study found participation in athletics to be a significant predictor of school dropout. Another study showed participation in extracurricular activities to be positively associated with higher education attainment and future earnings.
School supports have an underlying equity issue, because some students need additional funding and transportation to participate in many of these activities, with growing gaps between upper-middle class and working class families and their ability to pay for activities with both time and money. Incorporating services and activities into the school budget helps ensure equal access and benefits for all students.
 http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0002716214548398?journalCode=anna http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0002716214548398?journalCode=anna